You can't ignore the Finnish article

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Finland shuns all the latest trends in favour of its own egalitarian and highly effective system
Finland shuns all the latest trends in favour of its own egalitarian and highly effective system. Rather than top-down leadership, schools benefit from a "broad but unobtrusive steering system" that produces some of the world's highest-performing pupils.

Leadership within larger schools is shared between the principal and other staff, which allows the principal to co-ordinate some of the district-wide activities usually arranged by local authorities.

The concept of shared leadership is also beginning to catch on in England. Amanda Phillips (pictured, seated, above), is head of Old Ford Primary in Bow, east London, and executive head of nearby Culloden School in Poplar. She has a team of five assistant heads on each site, who take it in turns to act as lead member one day a week, leaving Ms Phillips free to oversee both schools.

In Finland, this co-operative model allows principals to spread the benefit of their managerial experience to other schools, which means they begin to take broader community needs into account, rather than simply defending their own school's interests. Market competitiveness is replaced with a culture of helping neighbouring schools and the entire community.

At the same time, local authority decisions are made with the participation of those who actually implement them in schools.

The model also means more leadership experience for those who might aspire to headship.

"Working in schools is easy because we don't have principals acting like big managers. It's more like a society of experts," said one teacher.

If the principal is absent, teachers can run the school. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between principals and teachers has been described as closer in Finland than elsewhere. It's all down to their system, which gets "good results from good people".

Photograph: Joel Chant.

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